The Future Now: BMW's Self-Driving Car
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 03:05 PM | Mallory Soto
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In nearly every state without a huge transit system like New York, almost everyone drives. It’s impossible to get around without a car. One of the big rites of passage is getting a license. Driving, however, isn’t for everyone. Think about it too hard and the responsibility of driving a giant machine that can move faster than a lot of land animals and has blind spots becomes a little daunting. The realization that the cute cardboard kids and people on a driving course stand in for real ones can settle in hard enough to make someone panic. Besides, it’s the future. Our computers have gotten tiny, and our cell phones have become computers. If we don’t have the flying car yet, what do we have?

According to BMW, we’re this much closer to the self-driving car. It’s everything we ever wanted cruise control to be. The self-autonomous system they’ve created maps out the area the car will be driving around. Four types of sensors, radar, cameras, laser scanners and ultrasound distance sensors on the car keep it well aware of its surroundings. The car can maneuver around any area mapped by the car’s manufacturer. In a few years, that means most roads can be traversed by sitting back and enjoying the ride. Don’t get too hopeful, odds are good you’ll still need a license to pilot one of these in case the driver encounters an area that’s not mapped or the system is down, but this changes the way we see cars entirely. Anyone prone to tickets for texting or moving their eyes away from the road can celebrate a little, because the future is a world where they don’t accidentally smash some poor bystander to bits.

This isn’t all smoke and mirrors, either. The car really works well, and can even change lanes if the driver ahead of it is going too slow. The car, at first glance, looks no different from its counterparts, but all of the sensors, radars, scanners and cameras are within its body. Below is a video of the system in action. Check it out to see it take on a busy highway in the middle of the day:

Tags: technology, joonbug, Gadgets, cool sh!t, lifestyle, self-driving car, bmw, cars